The First World War and the US State Dept.

Imperial and Global Forum   September 22, 2015
Cross-posted from the Office of the Historian (US Dept. of State)

Dept. of State*To mark the centenary of the First World War, the Office of the Historian and U.S. Embassy France have carried out a study into the role of the U.S. diplomatic corps stationed in France during 1914–1918. In contrast to the well known record of U.S. actions after it entered the war in April 1917, the stories of U.S. diplomats, consuls, and their family members—particularly during the early months of the crisis (August-December 1914)—were long forgotten, overshadowed by subsequent events of the tumultuous twentieth century. By researching U.S. Government and Government of France records, memoirs, personal papers, and newspaper archives, this study presents a fascinating account of how actions spearheaded by U.S. diplomats—and American citizens—significantly strengthened Franco-American relations in unique, unparalleled ways.

The Office of the Historian has released this electronic preview editionof Views From the Embassy: The Role of the U.S. Diplomatic Community in France, 1914 (PDF, 818 KB). Over the upcoming months, this preview edition will be superseded by a more complete version. The material complements U.S. Embassy France’s WWI Centennial page. Readers may view full copies of several documents referenced in “Views From the Embassy” through links on the Embassy’s WWI Interactive Timeline.

The material in “Views From the Embassy” differs substantially from documentation printed in the Foreign Relations of the United Statesvolumes covering World War I, which focus upon high policy decisions and matters of international law rather than on-the-ground operations. Readers may access Foreign Relations of the United Statesvolumes, such as the 1914 War Supplement volume, through the Office of the Historian website. [to continue reading and download the PDF, click here.]

Land Office photo, Oklahoma, 1900. The General Land Office, formed in 1812, was an early example of the administrative state, responsible for parceling and legal settlement of western U.S. territories. Photo: Library of Congress, George Grantham Bain Collection.

Land Office photo, Oklahoma, 1900. The General Land Office, formed in 1812, was an early example of the administrative state, responsible for parceling and legal settlement of western U.S. territories. Photo: Library of Congress, George Grantham Bain Collection.

Hail to the Pencil Pusher

American Bureaucracy’s Long and Useful History

Nineteenth-century America was a place full of hazards. Disease, political oppression, imperialist warfare, poor living conditions, and hard manual labor took their toll, as they still do. But some dangers were peculiar to the era—among them, exploding steamboats.

Between 1825 and 1830, 273 people died in such accidents. DeBow’s Review (1848) noted 233 cases of “bursting boilers,” “collapsing flues,” and other breakdowns, which could cause massive damage. In his 1833 State of the Union address, President Andrew Jackson noted the “many distressing accidents which have of late occurred . . . . by the use of steam power.” But he didn’t simply mourn, instead arguing that the problem demanded “the immediate and unremitting attention of the constituted authorities of the country.” He sought criminal penalties to prevent what he saw as the negligence of carriers.

But the problem was so severe that Congress eventually decided tackle it administratively. Criminalizing bad behavior wasn’t enough; for the good of individual lives and the larger economy, the government would take positive steps to prevent explosions. Under the Steamboat Act of 1852, Congress mandated standards for boiler pressure and testing. Pilots and engineers would be federally licensed. And government inspectors could enforce these rules.

This “steamboat agency” seems like something straight out of the twentieth century. It relied on the Constitution’s commerce clause to regulate a specific industry for personal safety. It developed these regulations based on scientific understanding. And it combined licensing, rule making, and adjudication, as the New Deal and Great Society agencies did and continue to do. It was, in sum, an early manifestation of an administrative state that contemporary conservatives insist did not exist until Progressive Era reformers built it upon the ashes of a former libertarian utopia.

By the administrative state, I mean the network of agencies created by Congress to carry out the work of the federal government. These agencies differ in the structure of their supervision, their sources of funding, and their ability to write and enforce rules, but collectively they have similar mandates: to carry out laws that Congress and the judiciary lack the time and expertise to implement on their own.

To some observers, this situation is fundamentally at loggerheads with the Constitution. The problem isn’t this or that agency; it is the administrative state itself, an alien import from European collectivism, which destroyed the laissez-faire liberty Americans supposedly enjoyed in the nineteenth century. Today, opposition to the administrative state unites everyone from George Will, who says the Affordable Care Act “serves principally to expand the administrative state’s unfettered discretion,” to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who sees the administrative state as evidence of a “belief that bureaucrats might more effectively govern the country than the American people,” to Senator Mike Lee, Glenn Beck, and the Tea Party broadly.

But a new wave of legal history is overturning the narrative of paradise lost. In Jerry Mashaw’s Creating The Administrative Constitution: The Lost One Hundred Years of American Administrative Law (2012), we see that the early U.S. government was both far more bureaucratic and expansive than partisans of deregulation assert. And Daniel Ernst, in Tocqueville’s Nightmare: The Administrative State Emerges in America, 1900–1940(2014), attacks the alien-import thesis, arguing that modern American regulatory agencies were justified by domestic legal norms.

Indeed, this scholarship does more than just show how far back the administrative state goes in American history. It shows that the practices and institutions of bureaucrats have not assaulted our Constitutional liberties but rather have helped define and expand our very notion of liberty. This emergent school of thought, known as “administrative constitutionalism,” documents how our institutions, in their everyday dealings with the public, provide the basis for the liberties courts end up adopting and ratifying.

• • •

Most academic discussion of the U.S. administrative state starts with the creation of the Interstate Commerce Commission of 1887, followed by a major ramp-up in the early twentieth century. This leaves a hundred years in which to fill in the blanks.

But, Mashaw argues, “We should rid ourselves of the nostalgic idea that the emergence of administrative governance in the twentieth century upset the grand design of a non-administrative state.” There “simply never was a time” in which federal law was “self-executing, fully specified by Congress, and enforced through judicial decree.” Mashaw digs up a deep and fascinating world of administrative practices that, from the beginning, were intended to solve the urgent problems Congress and the courts could not by themselves.

Take the settlement of the West. The surveying, sale, and settlement of the new public lands was the largest administrative challenge facing the early federal government. People moving westward, especially after the Louisiana Purchase, didn’t form the bargaining, enclosing paradise of libertarian lore. Settlements involved endless fighting in courts over who owned what under a mix of state, federal, and international law. Courts were ill equipped to handle these cases and quickly buckled under the endless, costly claims, some of which would take decades to negotiate. The time and energy absorbed by the legal process slowed the work of making new land available for settlement. Dysfunction fed back on dysfunction, with lawsuits provoking further lawsuits and uncertainty.

U.S. government bureaucracy helped to define and expand American notions of liberty.

In order to deal with this chaotic situation, Congress created the General Land Office in 1812. It was not without controversy of the sort we might recognize today: during the republican era, Congress wanted to explicitly control every aspect of policy. But rules drafted in Washington D.C., no matter how meticulous, required expert implementation on the ground. The process of surveying, recording, and selling land had to be subject to uniform rules, but the land itself was not uniform, and the rules weren’t easy to apply. Congressional strictures originally prevented Land Office administrators from correcting record-keeping errors resulting from the disconnect between the law and facts on the ground. Eventually, though, Congress realized the need to tolerate some administrative discretion. So, for example, while the law required planting trees to demarcate townships, where trees could not be planted, administrators might fix stones. Land Office agents, newly empowered to make at least some decisions, filed reports with Congress to ensure accountability.

Mashaw extends a project of finding the state in the nineteenth century, which historians have undertaken since the 1990s. Books such as William J. Novak’s The People’s Welfare: Law and Regulation in Nineteenth-Century America (1996) have documented the extensive state regulation of behavior that characterized the time period. Mashaw shows that the government not only regulated through law, but also expanded its capacity to enforce those laws by means of the administrative state.

But even if the administrative state is older than some realize, what should we make of the still-important changes that befell it in the early twentieth century? Here Ernst, in Tocqueville’s Nightmare, offers a compelling mix of history and legal thought, as politicians, lawyers, and bureaucrats try to find a way to balance public needs under administrative purview against judicial accountability.

Ernst’s title is ironic. Alexis de Tocqueville’s nightmare, in Ernst’s telling, was that a “centralized administration” would take hold in the United States. Local municipal bodies, townships, and counties form a shield against federal power. But, Tocqueville wrote, if a federal bureaucratic state ever “sunk deep into the habits and the laws of the people . . . a more insufferable despotism would prevail than any which now exists.”

A century later we had the formal bureaucratic state Tocqueville warned about. Yet ours was still a liberal democracy, with no despotism in sight. What happened?

Ernst argues that the Constitution survived the construction of the administrative state because the courts built judicial values and process into the DNA of the new government agencies. The norms of due process and evidence would give “a distinctly legalistic cast to the administrative state.” Evidently, “Americans decided they could avoid Tocqueville’s nightmare if administration approximated the structure, procedures, and logic of the judiciary.”

Specifically, the administrative apparatus approximated the structure, procedures, and logic of the American judiciary, not a foreign import. While some historians claim a Progressive embrace of European social insurance, city planning, and market regulation, Ernst points out that the German ideal of the Rechtsstaat—a state with only strict, clearly demarcated rules—was advanced in the United States but found little traction.

Instead, the Supreme Court, led in this effort by Justice Charles Evans Hughes, built over the course of decades a theory whereby it could “see” what administrators did if their actions were justified in a purely legalistic way. As long as administrators observed due process and made their decisions based on well-established facts, courts would defer to their actions rather than find that administrators had been making laws themselves.

This focus on Hughes as hero allows Ernst a particular reading of the tension between the Roosevelt administration and the Supreme Court during the New Deal, a critical moment in the history of the administrative state and in the contest over that history. The right sees the New Deal as a clear instance of executive overreach in which the White House cowed a reluctant Court into doing its bidding. But Ernst tells a different story, in which the Court gradually brought administrative law into line with American jurisprudence.

At first the Court was hostile to the New Deal, striking down the National Industrial Recovery Act. But NIRA’s administrative character wasn’t at odds with the Constitution. The problem was a lack of set procedures, and its goals were unclear, meaning that administrators would be left to operate at their discretion. According to Ernst, Hughes, with his opinion in the case eliminating NIRA, was “teaching the New Dealers the first principles of administrative law and procedure.” When the Supreme Court finally began approving New Deal legislation in 1937, it was “less a revolution than a reconciliation between the judicial and executive branches.”

• • •

The administrative state was not only built on the basis of American legal norms, but it also helped to create them, and, in the process, American conceptions of liberty itself. What sort of bureaucracy could do that? One of the strongest examples is also one of the most prosaic: the Post Office.

The Post Office was, at one time, a massive federal state-building enterprise. Spanning and keeping pace with a rapidly expanding frontier, the Post Office was one of the most impressive features of the early state. But not just that. As legal scholar Anuj Desai argues, it is also via the Post Office that our notion of privacy gained shape.

We take for granted that the Fourth Amendment protects the privacy of communications, such as our email. But where does that come from? Most look to wiretapping cases of the 1960s, which took their precedent from Justice Louis Brandeis’s notion of a right to privacy. However, Desai contends that communication privacy really began with everyday bureaucratic practices at the Post Office. In the 1780s and ’90s, the Post Office consciously prevented government agents from opening the mail without a government warrant, which itself was a reaction to activities of the British government during the Revolutionary War. The Supreme Court eventually incorporated these practices into law in the 1878 case Ex parte Jackson, when it protected communications privacy under the Fourth Amendment.

Privacy protection emerged from the early Post Office’s resistance to government snooping.

This is not how we usually understand the development of our constitutional liberties. Instead of judges abstractly thinking through the Fourth Amendment and its implications, normative commitments evolving from bureaucrats’ daily routines came to define a constitutional right to privacy.

Modern free speech, too, is an outgrowth of the administrative state, in this case the Progressive variety. Historians have long believed that Progressive intellectuals, normally skeptical of individual rights and interested in muscular state-building, came to defend civil liberties only after the repression of dissent during World War I compelled them to place new limits on the state. But as legal scholar Jeremy Kessler has argued, Progressives first turned to civil libertarianism in order to bolster the state, not to limit it. Working as bureaucrats in the Wilson administration during World War I, they created a conscientious objector exemption from the draft, much to the anger of Congress and the military. But those in charge of executing the draft, including future Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter, saw it as essential that the state make room for draftees to express their moral and political opposition to military duty and to perform alternative forms of national service.

Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes was close with Frankfurter and his circle, which influenced the famous defense of free speech he articulated in dissent to Abrams v. United States (1919). This defense, which emphasized the way free speech for the government’s political opponents could improve public policy and foster democratic participation, was a judicial embodiment of earlier, administrative efforts to accommodate antiwar citizens.

This is an example of what legal theorists call administrative constitutionalism, which, again, reverses the conventional wisdom according to which constitutional norms are created from on high. As William N. Eskridge Jr. and John Ferejohn explain in A Republic of Statutes: The New American Constitution (2010), our “normative commitments are announced and entrenched not through a process of Constitutional amendments or Supreme Court pronouncements but instead through the more gradual process of legislation, administrative implementation, public feedback, and legislative reaffirmation and elaboration.”

The authors focus on small-c constitutional norms, or what they call superstatutes. These norms start with social movements and economic problems that create demands for state action, resulting in public and legislative deliberation and eventually laws. Implementation elicits responses and opposition from the public and the courts, is revised and elaborated with feedback, and finally turns into a norm, be it privacy or free speech, which may not be entirely encompassed in the direct language of the Constitution. The administrative practices of the state, built through everyday democracy, push just as much on the courts as the courts push on democracy.

These efforts to craft new norms create conflicts, which administrators balance alongside legislators and the courts. Consider the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which, as legal scholar Sophia Z. Lee demonstrates in The Workplace Constitution from the New Deal to the New Right (2014), found its postwar goals in contradiction. The NLRB was committed to allowing workers to organize. But it also was committed to ending segregation, including within unions, which ran counter to the objective of maximal unionization. Eventually the courts took over this battle, largely limiting workers’ rights. Whether the courts made the right calls in these cases is not so important in this context. What is important is that negotiations within the administrative state, themselves responsive to public demands, inspired the elaboration of new norms, which then became the subject of constitutional debate. Only by incorporating this realm of the administrative constitution into our debates over history and politics can we get a full picture of how the law really works.

• • •

The recent scholarship on the administrative state provides a wealth of arguments to counter the right’s historical and legal theories. Americans have long turned to bureaucracy to solve problems and to advance liberty.

But the historical presence of an administrative state based in and expressive of American legal norms doesn’t mean that administration is without challenges. The surveillance apparatus, for instance, is opaque and invasive. Immigration agencies have been slapped down by courts for their unconstitutional punitiveness and for engaging in what amounts to administrative lawmaking. Agencies can also be too lax: for instance, the apparent inability of the Securities and Exchange Commission and other financial oversight institutions to corral Wall Street has provoked serious concern over bureaucratic capture.

Our deepening understanding of the history and theory of the administrative state should remind us that we can’t simply wish away these challenges, which reflect ideological contest. As Mashaw shows, administrative agencies have always been subject to and indicative of political dispute. For example, the composition of their staffs and the nature of their practices reflect broader public commitments. During the republican years of the early nineteenth century, agencies hired on the basis of “character” and “standing in the community.” But during the period of Jacksonian democracy, this scheme was attacked as a miniature aristocracy and replaced with a “spoils system,” whereby employment was determined by the party that won office, which seen as a democratic advance. These systems each had their advantages and disadvantages, but there was no way to divorce them from politics.

There is no time before the administrative state we can revert to, no simple practices we can adopt to fix abuses or failures. If correcting administrative faults were simple, then the administrative state really would be outside the bounds of politics. The truth, though, is that through our political institutions, Americans have been struggling since the earliest days of the republic to make administration work, just as administrators have, with great consequence, struggled to make the state function. That is the normal state of U.S. politics. But undoing the administrative state entirely? That would mean returning to a country that never was.

Mike Konczal

Mike Konczal is a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute. His work has appeared in The NationSlate, and The American Prospect. He blogs at Rortybomb.


Plane Queer cover

Today’s guest discusses the history of sexuality in the workplace through the lens of male flight attendants. We speak with Phil Tiemeyer about the shifts and changes in the airline industry across the 20th century. Phil steers us through this history and reveals the importance and difficulty of braiding together race, gender, and sexuality in a study of the labor and capitalism.

Phil Tiemeyer is Associate Professor of History at Philadelphia University. He is author of Plane Queer: Labor, Sexuality, and AIDS in the History of Male Flight Attendants. You can read more about his work here.

Check out the episode here!

Conferencia sobre la eugenesia celebrada en Kansas en 1925. / AGE PHOTOSTOCK

Conferencia sobre la eugenesia celebrada en Kansas en 1925. / AGE PHOTOSTOCK

La caída de la gran raza

El lío va a ser cuando lo descubra Donald Trump. El año próximo, mientras las internas norteamericanas derramen su luz sobre Occidente, se cumplirán cien años de un libro que influyó como pocos en la vida de ese país –y que tantos, después, quisieron olvidar.

Su autor, Madison Grant, había nacido en 1865 en Nueva York, en una de esas familias que se decían patricias porque habían desembarcado en el siglo XVII, cuando había que ser muy pobre para migrar a ese islote salvaje. Grant se educó en Yale y Columbia, se recibió de abogado, no ejerció porque no necesitaba y se dedicó, sobre todo, a la caza mayor. De ahí su interés por las ciencias naturales, que pronto se le volvió monomanía. En 1916, ya cincuentón, publicó su ópera magna: se llamaba The Passing of the Great Race –La Caída de la Gran Raza– y fue un éxito.

La Gran Raza era, por supuesto, la blanca, y el libro se dolía por su supuesta decadencia. Para explicarla empezaba por una clasificación donde dividía a los “caucasoides” –muy superiores a los “negroides” y “mongoloides”– en tres clases. Los “nórdicos” eran los mejores, después venían los “alpinos” y, al final, lacra viciosa perezosa y boba, los “mediterráneos”: griegos, italianos, españoles. De donde su tesis central: la inmigración indiscriminada de esos inferiores estaba destruyendo América; los brutos se reproducían tanto, con tal carga genética, que arruinaban el nórdico pueblo americano. Era una vergüenza, decía Grant, que sus compatriotas “quisieran vivir unas pocas generaciones de vida fácil y lujosa” importando esa mano de obra barata que arrasaría su raza.

América se derrumbaba, pero Grant le ofrecía sus soluciones: para los casos más extremos de la degradación proponía “un rígido sistema de selección a través de la eliminación de los débiles o incapacitados –los fracasados sociales– que en cien años nos permitirá deshacernos de los indeseables que colman nuestras cárceles, hospitales y manicomios”. Ni siquiera era necesario matarlos, decía: alcanzaba con esterilizarlos. “Es una solución práctica, piadosa e inevitable que puede ser aplicada a un círculo creciente de desechos sociales, empezando por el criminal, el enfermo y el loco para extenderla gradualmente a los tipos que podríamos llamar ya no defectuosos, sino débiles, y por fin a los tipos raciales inútiles”.

La eugenesia era una corriente poderosa, y La Caída fue su estandarte. Su prédica funcionó: pocos años después la Suprema Corte americana declaró constitucional la esterilización de los “débiles mentales”. En la década siguiente unas 60.000 mujeres fueron esterilizadas.

Fue uno de los grandes éxitos de Grant y los suyos; el mayor llegó cuando su insistencia consiguió acabar con la inmigración que había conformado su país. La Inmigration Act promulgada en 1924 por un Gobierno republicano estableció cuotas que limitaban al máximo la llegada de italianos, polacos, chinos, japoneses, judíos varios y cerró la primera gran ola migratoria americana.

La Caída de la Gran Raza se reimprime cada tanto, aunque sus editores no se atreven a poner en tapa la opinión de Adolf Hitler: “Este libro es mi biblia”. Dichas así, a lo bestia, sus ideas pueden sonar intolerables o ridículas. En su momento se consideraban científicas y produjeron efectos importantes: su recuerdo sirve para preguntarse qué ideas que tomamos en serio parecerán ridículas o intolerables en unas pocas décadas. Y, de todas formas, tras el mínimo barniz de la corrección política, sus conceptos reaparecen en cada patera mediterránea, en cada Trump gritando, en tantas charlas de café.

Madison Grant murió en 1937. Su libro se estudiaba, sus ideas influían, sus discípulos medraban. Él, mientras tanto, obsesionado por conservar, había dedicado sus últimas décadas al ecologismo, y descolló: se le debe, dicen, la supervivencia del bisonte y otras grandes bestias que el hombre amenazaba.

“Martín Caparrós (Buenos Aires, 1957) se licenció en historia en París, vivió en Madrid y Nueva York, dirigió revistas de libros y revistas de cocina, recorrió medio mundo, tradujo a Voltaire, Shakespeare y Quevedo, recibió el Premio Planeta Latinoamérica, el Premio Rey de España y la beca Guggenheim. Es autor de unos treinta libros que lo han encumbrado como uno de los grandes escritores latinoamericanos de nuestro tiempo.” (http://www.anagrama-ed.es/autor/1214)

The Peculiar Institution Expands: Slavery and the Constitution

We’re History  September 22, 2015
Women and Children Picking Cotton

Women and Children Picking Cotton.(Photo: Avery Research Center at the College of Charleston)

From the Editors…There is a currently a dust-up in political and historical forums over whether or not the Constitution sanctioned slavery or was an anti-slavery document. It is heated, and personal, and must, to many people, seem arcane. Who really cares, today, whether or not the Founding Fathers technically saw the nation as one based on slavery, when the reality was that the Constitution permitted the institution? Slavery existed before the American Revolution, it expanded afterward, and Americans had to fight a four-year war that cost more than $5 billion and 600,000 lives to end it.

So why does this issue matter so much?

It is really a fight about politics, and the nature of modern-day America.

Princeton professor Sean Wilentz launched the fight with an op-ed in the New York Times on September 16 shortly after Bernie Sanders said that the United States was “created…on racist principles.” Wilentz, a long-time Clinton supporter, vehemently disagreed. He insisted that the Constitution, which established the nation, was anti-slavery because it kept slavery a local, rather than a national, institution.

The larger question at stake in this argument is about whether or not America needs to address a history of inequality that is knit into the fabric of our society, or whether the problems we see today are largely policy issues that are not part of the nation’s fundamental make-up. This translates to politics because Sanders has been a more vocal supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement than Hillary Clinton has been. At a more general level, though, it is a fight about how to incorporate new voices into a discussion about America’s future.

We’re History believes the best way to address these questions is by looking at what, exactly, happened in the past. Today Professor Joshua D. Rothman from the University of Alabama explains how the Constitution encouraged the growth of slavery.

Critics of Sean Wilentz’s essay in the September 16 New York Times have rightfully noted that contrary to Wilentz’s claims, the Constitution quite clearly entrenched racial slavery in the national government and made it a national institution. The Constitution contained enough ambiguity to allow antislavery forces to maintain by the middle of the nineteenth century that the federal government could legitimately put slavery on the path toward extinction. But to make the case that the Constitution was nationally antislavery in intent in 1787 is to read history backwards from 1865.

Perhaps more significantly, such an argument makes American history in the years between the ratification of the Constitution and the outbreak of the Civil War difficult if not utterly impossible to understand. For if the Constitution was indeed, in Wilentz’s words, “based on a repudiation of the idea of a nation dedicated to the proposition of property in humans,” slavery never should have become an even more powerful force in American life after ratification than it had ever been before. If the Constitution was truly antislavery at a national level, the enslaved population that stood at around 700,000 in 1790 never should have increased nearly sixfold to roughly 4,000,000 people by 1860, at which point the United States had the largest enslaved population on the planet. The landscape of slavery and the number of people imprisoned on it in the United States expanded not because white southerners somehow conspired against the intentions of the framers, but because structurally and politically the Constitution encouraged it.

Some of the men involved in drafting the Constitution did believe that the institution of slavery was morally problematic and hoped that it would fade over time before effectively ending on its own. Given the declining Chesapeake tobacco economy of the late eighteenth century, it was not unreasonable to imagine that the compromises that made slavery part of the infrastructure of the national government were temporary expedients that would largely cease to matter within a generation or two. Even as some northern states began moving toward gradually emancipating their enslaved populations, however, no constitutional provision was ever made to nudge the nation as a whole in that direction, and in short order after ratification the burgeoning cotton economy of the southwest shattered the illusion that slavery might somehow simply disappear.

If any sense of urgency for moving against slavery at the national level ever really existed around the time of ratification, congressmen abandoned it quickly. In the late 1790s, Congress formally opened for settlement the Mississippi Territory, comprising what is now Mississippi and Alabama, and, after briefly debating alternatives that were within its power to enact, endorsed slavery’s legality there. The United States then acquired the massive Louisiana Territory in 1803. Here too lay an opportunity for the national government to demonstrate its commitment at least to restricting slavery’s growth if not to ending it. But no such commitment existed, and white settlers expanded slavery throughout the Southwest. In the region of the Mississippi Territory alone, the enslaved population increased from fewer than 4,000 people in 1800 to more than 180,000 by 1830.

To the extent that Congress used the Constitution to circumscribe slavery at all, it did so in ways that actually entrenched the institution and nurtured its growth. The Missouri Compromise of 1820, for example, drew a line across the Louisiana Purchase above which federal law banned slavery’s expansion. But it simultaneously recognized and affirmed federal support for slavery’s expansion below the line. Then Congress demonstrated its support for that expansion through its program of Indian removal that used federal money and military might to clear Native Americans off millions of acres of cotton land for white slaveholders to exploit.

Similarly, while Congress did enact legislation to abolish the transatlantic slave trade as soon as it was constitutionally permissible in 1808, it simultaneously gave national license for Americans to engage in the domestic slave trade that had been growing in the United States to feed white demands for labor in the cotton lands. The very same legislation that barred the importation of enslaved Africans for sale placed no restrictions on the sale of enslaved people across state lines. On the contrary, the law required only that ships transporting enslaved people from the failing tobacco fields of Maryland and Virginia to the thriving cotton and sugar regions of the Southwest had to document on their manifests that their cargo had lived in the United States by 1808. Congress thus had the explicit constitutional power to regulate interstate commerce, and at the very moment the minds of its members turned to the horrors of the transatlantic slave trade, they used that power to legitimize the domestic slave trade as an acceptable form of commercial exchange in the United States.

All of these developments had their greatest meaning in the places where slavery continued to exist in the nineteenth century, but all of them were national in significance. Cotton only grew in the South, but by the 1830s it was by far the nation’s most vital export. Slave-grown cotton made up more than half of everything the United States shipped overseas, and it fueled the early Industrial Revolution specifically and the evolution of American capitalism more generally. Enslaved people were traded only in the South, but the profits from their sales were shared nationally, and even internationally, as banks scattered across the United States and England provided the credit that facilitated the trade. In fact, during the 1820s and 1830s, the years when the trade was arguably at its most flourishing, that credit came directly from the federal government, with the Second Bank of the United States pouring millions in government funds into the Southwest.

Growing numbers of American antislavery activists understood that the profits of slavery accrued generally in the United States. As abolitionist Joshua Leavitt put it in 1840, the wealth produced by slavery was “the common plunder of the country.” And abolitionists understood equally well from whence the authority to carry out what Leavitt called “this general robbery” of the enslaved ultimately derived. One might make the case that the Constitution’s omission of the word “slavery” eventually helped enable that institution’s demise. But that linguistic squeamishness notwithstanding, only the fact that the Constitution confirmed the legitimacy of racial slavery can explain its explosive growth before the Civil War.

About the Author

Joshua D. Rothman

Joshua D. Rothman is Professor of History and Director of the Frances S. Summersell Center for the Study of the South at the University of Alabama. He is the author, most recently, of Flush Times and Fever Dreams: A Story of Capitalism and Slavery in the Age of Jackson (2012), and is currently working on a book about the slave traders Isaac Franklin, John Armfield, and Rice Ballard.

Why We Have Loved Gangster Movies for 100 Years
HNN  September 11, 2015

Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, sometime between 1932 and 1934 . Wikipedia.

Gangster James “Whitey” Bulger had been gone for sixteen years, vanished into the American landscape. The brutal New England mob boss, who murdered numerous people and controlled a powerful mafia family for more than twenty years, and at the same time betrayed his men as an FBI informer, had disappeared like a puff of smoke. Then, suddenly, in 2011, he was arrested in Santa Monica, California. A crime stopper television show aired a biography of him and the secretive, ordinary looking old man who lived in an apartment in Venice Beach with his longtime girlfriend not only surrendered without a classic movie shootout, but surrendered without even a whimper.

Whitey Bulger’s story is the basis for new Johnny Depp movie, Black Mass, that opens this week. The movie recounts the odd life of Whitey, whose brother Bill, astonishingly, was the President of the Massachusetts State Senate and the President of the University of Massachusetts.

It is yet another American gangster movie. The mob movie has been a staple of American entertainment history since the silent movie era. It flourished after the arrival of sound with movies such as The Public Enemy and Little Caesar. The public’s love of the gangster boomed again in the late 1940s with film noir hoods like actor Richard Widmark, and crested in the 1970s with The Godfather movies. They were seen along with crime classics such as Bonnie & Clyde, Goodfellas, The Departed. Donnie Brasco and the HBO television series The Sopranos, starring Tony Soprano and his lovable New Jersey crew, understanding wife and troublesome kids.

The gangster movie is not only as American as apple pie; it is better than apple pie. You finish an apple pie; the mob movie never disappears.

Why do we love gangsters and crime cinema so much? They represent everything that America, and Americans, do not stand for. They focus on brutish, murderous thugs whose sole goal is accumulating power and money by using fear tactics. They will do anything to anybody to get ahead, regardless of how many laws they break or people they shoot.

We should hate gangsters, real or Hollywood, and yet we embrace them. Why?

The film and TV gangsters are a cultural phenomenon that dates back to the turn of the 20th century and the arrival in America of the Italian mafia, then called ‘The Black Hand.’ They split up into various “families” in New York and then in other American cities as organized crime, the mafia, the mob, the underworld – call it what you will – and succeeded not just in the streets, but in the box offices of theater and later on television stations.


The screen or television gangster is somebody many Americans wish they could be – tough, resilient, fearless – but, of course, we are not. The hoods live in a chaotic, violent world that Americans want to control themselves, but not really. We love to admire them, to talk about them, read about them and see them on the silver screen and wish we could be them – up to ‘the line,’ the line that, of course, we do not cross. We just sit back and live like them, machine guns and all – vicariously.

The Hollywood mobster is an historic character. He got his start in the early days of sound film because during the 1920s, thanks to endless media attention, he had already become a major figure on the American scene. Most of the early real life gangsters were immigrants who could not succeed in American because of persecution and discrimination against ethnic groups. So, nowhere else to go, they turned to crime. They had to turn to crime, shrugged Americans. Since all of us are, way back, immigrants from somewhere, we understood that.

The gangsters left us alone. They went about their business – robbery, murder, kidnapping, extortion – but did not bother the average citizen. They were successful, made a lot of money and lived in large homes. Nobody loves successful people like Americans. The mobsters were admired for their ability to rise above discrimination and succeed. By 1930, Americans saw them just like other people successful people– well-dressed men who drove flashy cars, hung out at posh night clubs, mingled with movie stars, dated beautiful women and lived the American dream. They achieved what we all wanted to achieve. They just did it in a different way.

What movie writers did was take the real gangster, sanitize him, glamorize him and put him on the big screen as a hero. He was the immigrant tough guy who blasted his way to the top. The judges, public officials and cops were the villains in all those 1930s gangster movies (did they all star James Cagney or did it just seem that way?). They were Robin Hoods with machine guns.

The movie gangster succeeded because real life gangsters of the era, such as Al Capone, Bonnie and Clyde and John Dillinger, had also become folk heroes, thanks to huge press coverage of their lives. The movies just took real life, put some make up on it, added music, printed posters and rolled the cameras.

In his wonderfully analytic book, Inventing the Public Enemy, David Ruth wrote of Capone that “In press conferences, interviews with reporters and a highly theatrical social life, Al Capone worked as hard as any movie star to create a favorable public image…. He was the subject of popular books, numerous pulp publications, movies and feature articles in newspapers and magazines ranging from Master Detective to Collier’s.”

The gangster movie was in a lull from the late ‘30s to the late 40’s and then from the early 1950s to the early 1970s. Then came Marlon Brando (“I’ll make him an offer he cannot refuse”), Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro in the Godfather movies. The public loved the Corleones and despised anybody trying to injure them, such as the FBI, the New York City Police Department and the Supreme Court.

The Corleones, and all screen gangsters, were good people. They never killed people out of personal hatred. It was all “just business.” They loved their wives, were good family men, raised kids, went to church and respected each other. They were men who acted like all men wanted to act. They just had a different type of job, that’s all – real different. They died just like we all died, except they died suddenly.

The Sopranos cemented the role of the beloved gangster in American entertainment. There were only two endings for Tony Soprano as the series was going to off the air – murder or prison. The public did not want that, though. In a New Jersey Star Ledger poll, over 80% of those queried begged the producer of The Sopranos to somehow let Tony live. The public loved Tony. He was everybody’s favorite uncle. He cared for his wife, loved his kids, helped his family, fought with his mother and Uncle, put up with his shrink and always tried to do what he could, with his working class, immigrant background, to get ahead in America. Tony Soprano did kill a lot of people but … oh, well.

So your son wants to be a doctor, an architect, a United States Senator? Your daughter wants to be an engineer, college professor, scientist?

Just remember one of the first lines in the mob movie Goodfellas. “As far back as I could remember, I always wanted to be a gangster. To me, being a gangster was better than being President of the United States.”

Bruce Chadwick lectures on history and film at Rutgers University in New Jersey. He also teaches writing at New Jersey City University. He holds his PhD from Rutgers and was a former editor for the New York Daily News. Mr. Chadwick can be reached at bchadwick@njcu.edu. Bruce Chadwick lectures on history and film at Rutgers University in New Jersey. He also teaches writing at New Jersey City University. He holds his PhD from Rutgers and was a former editor for the New York Daily News. Mr. Chadwick can be reached at bchadwick@njcu.edu.

– See more at:Why We Have Loved Gangster Movies for 100 Years

War Without Reason

Henry Kissinger dismissed facts and data in favor of grandiose notions of moral power.

Jacobin  September 14, 2015
Henry Kissinger at an April 1975 news conference on the evacuation of Americans and others from Saigon.

Henry Kissinger at an April 1975 news conference on the evacuation of Americans and others from Saigon.

Greg Grandin is a professor of history at New York University and the author of many books, including Kissinger’s Shadow: The Long Reach of America’s Most Controversial Statesman, from which the following is adapted.

The ferocity with which Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger bombed Cambodia, along with the desire to inflict extreme pain on North Vietnam, had a number of motivations. Some were explicit — to wring concessions out of Hanoi; to disrupt the National Liberation Front’s supply and command-and-control lines — and others implicit — to best bureaucratic rivals; to look tough and prove loyalty; to appease the Right.

“Savage was a word that was used again and again” in discussing what needed to be done in Southeast Asia, recalled one of Kissinger’s aides, “a savage unremitting blow on North Vietnam to bring them around.”

But there’s another way to think about the savagery, along with the wild, off-the-books way their air assault was carried out.

Everything about the secret operation seemed to be a reaction to the man Kissinger identified as the ultimate technocrat: Kennedy’s and Johnson’s secretary of defense, Robert McNamara. In office from 1961 to 1968, McNamara is famous for imposing on the Pentagon the same integrated system of statistical analysis he had, in the previous decade, used to rescue the Ford Motor Company.

“McNamara’s revolution” continued reforms that had been underway since World War II, but in a much more intensified and accelerated fashion. McNamara’s “whiz kids” sought to subordinate every aspect of defense policy — its lumbering bureaucracy, its cornucopia budget for equipment appropriation, its doctrine, tactics, chains of command, its supply logistics and battlefield maneuvers — to the abstract logic of economic modeling. Intangibles that couldn’t be graphed or coded into an economic model — will, ideology, culture, tradition, history — were disregarded. McNamara even tried, without success, to impose a single, standard uniform on all the different branches of the armed services.

As might be expected, such efforts to achieve “cost effectiveness” greatly expanded paperwork. Every operational detail was recorded so that, back in DC, teams of economists and accountants could figure out new opportunities for further rationalization. Finance and budget came under special scrutiny; among McNamara’s early major reforms was to “develop some means of presenting” the Pentagon’s “costs of operation in mission terms.” What this meant for the Strategic Air Command is that every gallon of fuel was accounted for, every flight hour recorded, every spare part used, along with every bomb dropped.

Kissinger’s plans to bomb Cambodia — plans worked out with Air Force colonel Ray Sitton, who was also skeptical of McNamara’s methods — weren’t quite the antithesis of McNamarian bureaucracy. They were more a shadow version, or perversion, of that bureaucracy.

According to Sitton, Kissinger approved a highly elaborate deception to circumvent “the Strategic Air Command’s normal command and control system — highly classified in itself — which monitors for budgetary requirements such items as fuel usage and bomb tonnage deployed.” A “duel reporting system” was established; briefings of pilots focused exclusively on objectives inside South Vietnam, but once in the air, radar sites would redirect a certain number of planes to their real destination in Cambodia. All documentation — maps, computer printouts, messages, and so on — that might reveal the true targets was burned.

“Every piece of paper, including the scratch paper, the paper that one of our computers might have done some figuring on, every piece of scrap paper was gathered up,” Maj. Hal Knight, who carried out the falsification on the ground in South Vietnam, testified to Congress in 1973: “I would wait until daylight, and as soon as that time came, I would go out and burn that.”

For Kissinger and the other men who bombed Cambodia for four years, this was a way of subverting the soulless enervation of “systems analysis,” of taking war out of the hands of bureaucrats and giving it back to the warriors.

Kissinger was much more aware of the philosophical foundation of his positions than most other postwar defense intellectuals. Yet, what is more important, at least in terms of understanding the evolution of the national security state, is how his critique reflects a deeper current in American history.

The idea that spirit and intuition need to be restored to a society that had become “overcivilized” and “overrationalized,” too dependent on logic, instruments, information, and mathematics, has a pedigree reaching back at least to the late 1800s. “Life is painting a picture, not doing a sum,” said Oliver Wendell Holmes, in a 1911 Harvard address (quoted by Kissinger in his undergraduate thesis).

Throughout the twentieth century, and into the twenty-first, every generation seemed to throw up a new cohort of “declinists,” militarists who warn about the establishment’s supposed overreliance on data and expertise, complain about the caution generated by too much bureaucracy, protest the enervation that results from too much information. The solution to such lassitude is, inevitably, more war, or at least more of a willingness to wage war, which often leads to war.

Kissinger, in the 1950s and 1960s was part of one such cohort, contributing to the era’s right-wing lurch in defense thinking, the idea that we needed to fight little wars in gray areas with resolve. In the mid-1970s, ironically, he himself was a primary target of just such a critique, at the hands of Ronald Reagan and the first generation of neoconservatives.

But before we get to that irony, there’s another worth considering: the role that one of Robert McNamara’s left-behinds, the economist Daniel Ellsberg — a man who liked to do his sums, whose understanding of the way the world worked was so diametrically opposed to Henry Kissinger’s metaphysics that he might be thought of as an anti-Kissinger — had in bringing down the Nixon White House.

Henry Kissinger and Daniel Ellsberg did their undergraduate and graduate studies at Harvard around the same time, both young veterans on scholarship and both brilliant and precocious. And it was Ellsberg, stationed in the US embassy in Saigon, who briefed Kissinger during his first visit to South Vietnam.

Like Kissinger, Ellsberg was interested in the question of contingency and choice in human affairs. But Ellsberg approached the subject as an economist, going on to do groundbreaking work in game theory and abstract modeling. Focused on atomized individuals engaged in a series of rational cost-benefit transactions aimed to maximize their advantage, these methods were far removed from Kissinger’s metaphysical approach to history, ideas, and culture.

Kissinger, in fact, had Ellsberg’s kind of methodology in mind when he criticized, in his undergraduate thesis, the smallness of American social science and the conceits of “positivism,” the idea that truth or wisdom could be derived from logical postulates or mathematical formulas.

Ellsberg spoke the language of axioms, theorems, and proofs, and believed that sentences like this could help defense strategists plan for nuclear war:

For any given probability distribution, the probability of outcome a with action III is p(A ∪ C) = PA + PC. The probability of outcome a with action IV is p (B ∪ C) = PB + PC. . . . . This means there must be a probability distribution, PAPB PC (0 ≤ pi ≤ p ∑ pi = 1), such that PA > PB and PA + PC < PB +PC. But there is none.

In contrast, Kissinger the metaphysician, wrote things like:

It does not suffice to show logically deduced theorems, as an absolute test of validity. There must also exist a relation to the pervasiveness of an inward experience which transcends phenomenal reality. For though man is a thinking being, it does not follow that his being exhausts itself in thinking. . . . the microcosm contains tension and polarity, the loneliness of the individual in a world of strange significances, in which the total inner meaning of others remains an eternal riddle. Rhythm and tension, longing and fear, characterize the relationship of the microcosm to the macrocosm.

The clash between these two ways of thinking about human experience would play themselves out in the first few months of Kissinger’s tenure as Nixon’s national security adviser.

Shortly before Nixon’s inauguration, Ellsberg, in a meeting with Kissinger at the president-elect’s headquarters at the Pierre Hotel in Manhattan, offered some advice. He related a story of how Robert McNamara, soon after being named secretary of defense, shook up the bureaucracy by immediately flooding Pentagon officers and staff with written questions. The answers he received weren’t important. McNamara was merely establishing his dominance.

Ellsberg suggested Kissinger do something similar: draft questions on controversial issues and send them out to the whole bureaucracy, to every agency and office. The agency principally responsible for any given subject, Ellsberg predicted, would have one opinion on the matter, and secondary agencies would have another, and the difference between the two opinions would provide a useful map of the ambiguities, doubts, and uncertainties that existed in the bureaucracy.

But, Ellsberg said, there was another, more Machiavellian reason to conduct the survey. The “very revelation of controversies and the extremely unconvincing positions of some of the primary agencies,” he said, “would be embarrassing to the bureaucracy as a whole. It would put the bureaucrats off-balance and on the defensive relative to the source of the questions — that is, Kissinger.”

“Kissinger,” Ellsberg remembered, “liked the sound of that.”

The questions, as Ellsberg predicted, prompted a backlash. Soon a counterproposal for reorganizing the NSC around the State Department began to float around, which allowed Kissinger to identify potential rivals. The proposal was quashed and its authors were sidelined.

That first stage of the exercise worked well for Kissinger. The next, not so much.

Kissinger had asked Ellsberg to collate, analyze, and average the responses to the questions related to the Vietnam War, over five hundred pages in total. The gloom revealed by the survey was astounding.

Even those hawks “optimistic” about the pacification of Vietnam thought that it would take, on average, 8.3 years to achieve success. All respondents agreed that the “enemy’s manpower pool and infiltration capabilities can outlast allied attrition efforts indefinitely” and that nothing short of perpetual troops and bombing could save South Vietnam.

When the findings were presented to Kissinger, he must have immediately recognized the trap he had fallen into. For all his warnings about how the “accumulation of facts” by technocrats like Ellsberg has the effect of sapping political will, Kissinger had foolishly given him free rein to, in effect, data mine the bureaucracy, providing him with hard evidence that the majority of the foreign service thought the war either was unwinnable or could be won only with actions that were politically impossible: permanent occupation or total obliteration.

Kissinger was the statesman, Ellsberg the expert. And according to Kissinger’s worldview, Ellsberg shouldn’t have existed, or at least he shouldn’t have done what he did.

Ellsberg was what Kissinger in his undergraduate thesis called a “fact-man.” His faith in data, his belief that he could capture the vagaries of human behavior in mathematical codes and then use those codes to make decisions, should have led him to a state of, if not paralysis, then predictability.

Kissinger would later boast about the difference between statesmen and experts, writing “the scope of the statesman’s conception challenges the inclination of the expert toward minimum risk.” But it was Ellsberg who was speaking out against the war and then leaking top-secret documents, taking a tremendous risk, including the possibility of imprisonment. And with this one audacious act, he changed the course of history.

The difference between Ellsberg and Kissinger is illustrated by the Pentagon Papers themselves. The “major lesson” offered by the massive study, Ellsberg thought, “was that each person repeated the same patterns in decision making and pretty much the same policy as his predecessor without even knowing it,” thinking that “history had started with his administration, and had nothing to learn from earlier ones.” Ellsberg, the economist, believed that breaking down history into discrete pieces and studying the decision making process, including the consequences of those decisions, provided a chance to break the destructive pattern.

But when Ellsberg tried, in their last meeting before leaking the documents, to get Kissinger to read the papers, Kissinger brushed him off.

“Do we really have anything to learn from this study?” he asked Ellsberg, wearily. “My heart sank,” recalls Ellsberg.

On Monday, June 14, 1971, the day after the New York Times published its first story on the papers, Kissinger exploded. He waved his arms, stomped his feet, and pounded his hands on a Chippendale table, shouting: “This will totally destroy American credibility forever. . . . It will destroy our ability to conduct foreign policy in confidence. . . . No foreign government will ever trust us again.”

The Pentagon Papers were a bureaucratic history of America’s involvement in Southeast Asia up until Johnson’s presidency. There was nothing specifically damaging to Nixon. But it was Kissinger’s “fury” that convinced Nixon to take the matter seriously. “Without Henry’s stimulus,” John Ehrlichman said, “the president and the rest of us might have concluded that the Papers were Lyndon Johnson’s problem, not ours.”

Why? The leak was bad for Kissinger in a number of ways. He was just then negotiating with China to reestablish relations and was afraid the scandal might sabotage those talks. He feared that Ellsberg, working with other dissenters on the NSC staff, might have breached the closed informational circuit that he had worked hard to establish, perhaps even acquiring classified memos on Cambodia.

Also, on a more abstract level, the Pentagon Papers really were something conjured out of Kissinger’s worst anti-bureaucratic fever dream. The project was a huge endeavor, written by an anonymous committee staffed by scores of what Robert McNamara called “knowledgeable people” drawn from the mid-level defense bureaucracy, universities, and social science think tanks.

Headed by two “experts,” Morton Halperin and Leslie Gelb, the committee based its findings on the massive amount of paperwork produced by various departments and agencies over the years — what Kissinger in his undergraduate thesis dismissed as the “surface data” of history. Missing, therefore, from its conclusions was what the young Kissinger would have described as the immanent possibility, the contingency, the intuition, and “freedom” that went into every decision point.

But Kissinger’s rage was also as much about the leaker as about the leak, obvious in the way he swung between awe and agitation when describing Ellsberg to his coconspirators, as almost Promethean in his intellect and appetites. “Curse that son of a bitch, I know him well,” he began one Oval Office meeting.

Kissinger keyed his performance to stir up Nixon’s varied resentments, depicting Ellsberg as some kind of liberal and hedonisticsuperman — smart, subversive, promiscuous, perverse, and privileged: “He’s now married a very rich girl,” Kissinger told Nixon. “Nixon was fascinated,” Ehrlichman said. “Henry got Nixon cranked up,” Haldeman remembered, “and then they started cranking each other up until they both were in a frenzy.” “Kissinger,” he said, “was absolutely infuriated and, in his inimitable fashion, managed to beat the president into an equal froth of fury.” Alexander Haig said that Kissinger, “did drive the president’s concern” about the leak.

It was in the meeting where Kissinger gave his most detailed denunciation of Ellsberg that Nixon ordered a series of illegal covert operations, putting Nixon on the road to ruin. These included the break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate Hotel and the burglary of Ellsberg’s psychiatrist’s office in California, hoping to find information that could be used to “discredit his character.”

“He’s nuts, isn’t he?” Haldeman asked Kissinger, about Ellsberg, in one of their meetings.

“He’s nuts,” Kissinger answered.

For what must have been for him a long year, between mid-1973 and mid-1974, it seemed Henry Kissinger, now holding the position of both national security adviser and secretary of state, was going down with Richard Nixon, along with his top aides.

Kissinger almost got caught on Cambodia, when Maj. Hal Knight sent a whistle-blowing letter to Senator William Proxmire informing him of his falsification of records. The Senate Armed Services Committee held hearings through the middle of 1973, and Seymour Hersh came very close to establishing Kissinger’s involvement in setting up the dual record reporting system. Hersh couldn’t confirm Kissinger’s role (he would at a later date) but that didn’t let Kissinger off the hook.

In June 1974, Hersh widened the net, filing stories fingering Kissinger for the first round of illegal wiretaps the White House set up, done in the spring of 1969 to keep the Cambodia bombing secret. Reporters, senators, and representatives were circling, asking questions, digging up more information, issuing subpoenas.

Landing in Austria, en route to the Middle East, and finding that the press had run more unflattering stories and editorials, Kissinger took a gamble. He held an impromptu press conference and threatened to resign (this was June 11, less than two months before Nixon’s resignation). It was by all accounts a bravura turn. “When the record is written,” he said, seemingly on the verge of tears, “one may remember that perhaps some lives were saved and perhaps some mothers can rest more at ease, but I leave that to history. What I will not leave to history is a discussion of my public honor.”

The bet worked. The press gushed. He “seemed totally authentic,”New York Magazine wrote. As if in recoil from the unexpected assertiveness they had shown in recent years, reporters and news anchors rallied around. The rest of the White House was being revealed to be little more than a bunch of shady two-bit thugs, but Kissinger was someone America could believe in.

“We were half-convinced,” Ted Koppel said in a documentary in 1974, just after Kissinger’s threatened resignation, “that nothing was beyond the capacity of this remarkable man.” The secretary of state was a “legend, the most admired man in America, the magician, the miracle worker.”

Kissinger, Koppel said, “may be the best thing we’ve got going for us.”


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